Just because there’s a pandemic going on and many large group gatherings are a bad look, it doesn’t mean that you can’t create events to help get to know your neighbors and community. It’s still safe to be outside. While practicing social distancing and appropriate mask-wearing you can continue to connect with neighbors, friends, and new folks.
Below are five events and how to create them in order to facilitate connections:
Traditionally, a potluck is viewed as an event where each person or family brings food to share with the whole group. These days, why not consider a BYOM! Bring (and eat) Your Own Meal. Send out a neighborhood invite via a private neighborhood Facebook group or through the NextDoor app.
Pick a day, a time, and set a destination like the neighborhood park, someone’s driveway, the community pool, or clubhouse as your location. Invite neighbors to bring food for their own family to enjoy. Create a virtual RSVP so you can plan for an accurate headcount.
Could you offer to provide paper products and cutlery? Or drinks, cups, and ice? Having these items on hand could simplify getting to the event for your guests. Often this type of get-together needs little to no structured activities because the conversation, socializing, and getting-to-know-each-other can happen organically without pressure.
If you have children you are looking to connect with playmates or as a parent you are wanting to find some solidarity with other parents, try hosting a playdate. This could be a simple invitation to a person you know face to face or it could be in the form of joining a group of folks in a similar stage of life on an outing.
Playdates can be indoors or outdoors. They can be small or large. They can be kid-centric or parent-centric. Maybe you want to get to know a new neighbor you’ve seen strolling in the neighborhood. Invite them for coffee and set out toys for your kids to play with. The idea is to create an environment where conversation can be facilitated. And if a 1:1 playdate feels too intimidating, look for local playgroups in your area. Many are having regular meetups or group events at zoos, parks, attractions on the local military installation, and kids’ museums.
Couples Bonfire and Drinks:
Looking for a kid-free way to connect? Consider a neighborhood bonfire for adults only. Invite your crew over for an after-dark evening of chatting and merry-making. Have your guests bring their favorite drinks in a cooler or personal tumbler, a portable camp or lawn chair, and let inhibitions evaporate under the cover of darkness.
No major agenda or activities required for this type of gathering. No RSVP needed for planning purposes. This is a come one, come all hang out. In fact, this can become a regularly recurring event. Have a standing weekend gathering. Keep it at the same location or trade out host homes for some variety.
Girls or Guys Night Out:
Sure it’s great to gather with other families, get the kids together, or mix and mingle with other couples, but sometimes it’s also fun to connect with your gal pals or have some guy time. Enter the GNO. Gathering around the neighborhood has its place but why not take some time away from the familiar and take the party somewhere fun?
Many restaurants are offering outdoor seating with social distancing options. Chips and guac on the patio of your favorite restaurant? Burgers and beers at your favorite bar? Yes, please.
Family Movie Night:
As summer is giving way to fall and the evening sunlight begins to dim earlier and earlier, these dark evenings are the perfect backdrop for an outdoor movie night on the lawn. There are many options for bringing the sights and sounds of your favorite blockbuster to the screen. Since most movie theaters are closed these days, why not make a family-friendly movie-going experience for your family, friends, or neighbors?
Ask your resident tech expert and you will soon discover that the options for projecting a movie outside require only minimal effort or equipment. There are projectors that can be synced with your smart phone’s Bluetooth and projector/screen combinations that vary in price. Even if you are investing a little more, the equipment will pay for itself after only a few movie showings.
Just because the world feels like an isolated and lonely place right now, it doesn’t mean that you can’t create your own fun and safe social gatherings. It takes a little ingenuity, a little planning, and a welcoming environment. If you set it up and invite others you just might find a lasting, meaningful connection from others who want to feel less isolated too.